James Lowe

(coating plant, union rep for mills)

2003/19 James Lowe interviewed in his own home in Edinburgh by Sarah Bromage on 24/4/2003

John Lowe worked in the coating plant at John Galloway and Sons from 1956 to 1971. Whilst working at Galloways he became involved in SOGAT and became the Union Rep for Galloways, Mossy Mill and Kinleith Mill

000 Schools attended in Motherwell. Social work, steel work and the RAF. Settled in Balerno and got a job in the local haulage company for three years.

023 Approached by mill and asked if he would like a job. Smith and Saunders transported esparto grass, china clay and coal to the mill. Coal came from the Lady Victoria pit. Rail to Smith and Saunders yard and then lorried up to the mill. Came in in open top wagons.

056 Sheds of esparto. Beetles in esparto. Smith and Saunders were the sole suppliers to Galloways. The mill had lorries but used them to transport local items. Drive caustic soda to the tip. Lorry took paper to Glasgow.

079 Manager of mill approached him and offered him the job. Made china clay, size and bleach in an adjacent building to the mill.

097 Jobs in mill. 30 – 40 people in his area. All men. Girls in salle, job of salle. Mostly local people, 360 people employed. Mill supplied a bus to pick up girls as there was a shortage of females locally.

129 12 machinemen a shift. Carrying broke back. Training on job for a week. Chlorine, gas and limestone to make bleach. 4 tanks in the bleach house. Used cyanide balls to kill germs. Amounts of gas used.

175 Waste went to the corporation pond. Settled lime went down, dried and went to the tip. Used to help shovel lime into the lorry, this was overtime. Often worked 16 hour shifts.

209 Finished 12pm Saturday until 8pm Sunday. 3 shift system. Girls day shift.

223 Bus times meant night shift would work till 7am. Rotate shifts. Wife worked in the salle and then the canteen.

237 There till end if mill, taken over by DRG. Canteen near salle. Breakfast people would go and get rolls for the workers who would have them on their shift. Hot food, 4 people in the canteen. There 8am till 5pm.

262 Breaks supposed to be 10 minutes every two hours. People would visit the canteen at 9am and 3pm.

274 Supervised yourself. Chemist would sample bleach and size. Job was to supply potchers and bleach as required.

286 If machine man wanted a coating would open a valve and the clay would come down. Potchers where esparto grass churned up, went to beaters where bleach and colour added.

300 Used to make cheque paper. Bank of England used to bring banknotes to put in potcher. Would check no notes left. Recycling of paper.

313 During war used rag boilers. John Anderson sent workers up to the reservoir to cut reeds to make paper. Esparto grass made strong paper. Wood pulp was not as strong. 99% esparto in paper.

331 1968 stopped buying esparto and started buying pulp. Not as successful and made more broke. Manager tried to speed up the machine, did not work.

345 No contact with Mr Galloway. Mr Jones dealt with workers. Gas leaks, sometimes had to clear the mill as mix could not absorb gas and it started escaping. Had to add more lime.

370 Latterly got gas masks for the lime dust which used to burn. Covered in dust. No safety officer, posters on the wall but that was it. Knew what you were doing.

385 Nurse mostly for women, would give you jags. No medical checks. Accidents when fingers caught in rollers. No deaths. Paper cuts.

405 Tests on bleach and rosin. Art paper, index boards. Paper made on single wire. Boards made on twin wire. 2 papermaking machines.

429 Coating plant. High speed big rolls. Mr Lowe made coating. Rolls 5ft high. Papermaking rolls 2ft. Cost of machines.

446 Mills shutting, lack of orders. Dickens and Robbins took over. Paper and pulp in new coating plant. Lack of profits.

457 Coating plant was a new building built on. No new people to work in plant. 1 person on a shift and broke assistant. If too much broke would burn it.

470 Manager would dictate speed. Better if machinemen decided on speed. People started and worked their way up through the mill. When mill closed all families out of work.

486 Union man and when mill closed would pay £5 a week for 3 months. Would go round and pay people in the pub or village hall. After that went to Moray House. Mill workers were good workers. After mill closed many went for jobs but deemed too old.

495 Took a long time for people to get employment. 12 hour shift, if you were on shift would wait on for next shift.

505 Clock in and out at the time office. Paid weekly in an envelope and collected money at the time office. Clerkesses made up wages.

523 Mill houses. 20 mill houses and council houses. Applied to foreman who would ask. Not expensive, when mill closed selling houses off for £2,000. House occupees had first option to buy; ½ the people bought the house they lived in.

541 Elected into union. Almost everyone was a member of SOGAT. Union meeting every six weeks in the canteen. One day strike. Negotiating with Managing Director over pay. Mr Walton and Mr Ainslie the company secretary.

572 No 10 agreement had rules and regulations that the mill was run by. Talk to Mr Ainslie about problems. Went to head office. Once a year would negotiate a pay rise.

585 No large disagreements, if you didn't get a pay rise would ask in a couple of months. No point in asking for a rise if the mill wasn't doing well. Short time. Would claim dole for days when you weren't working.

594 Treasurer of sick fund. Contributions against name £5 a week. Recognised by the union, accounts audited by the union. Set rate for union fees.

630 Pay increase when went to the mill, difference between the mill and other industries.

647 Galloways good to their employees, family firm. Employees had to behave themselves. Pension scheme.

669 Bowling club, would bowl after came off night shift at 6am. Annual dance at the Assembly Rooms, small ticket fee. Buses laid on and meal.

695 No annual trip. Mystery tour would come to village, buy a ticket and not know where you were going.

704 On gala committee. Lorry floats from Smith and Saunders. Galloways sports races. Every child had a party bag. Balloon competition.

730 People would socialise at local dances, football and pubs. Ma Browns inn called the Grey Horse Inn and the Malleny Arms of the Honkytonk.

747 When he started it was the first year you got holidays. Used to shut for a week for maintenance but did not get paid. Would work Christmas and Hogmanay till 10pm. Bank holiday.

770 1956 – 1971 worked at mill. Aware at the end that there were no orders. Coating plant was a white elephant and should have not been bought. Breakdowns and wire breaking. Hole in wire; felt would break. Making blankets from felts. Would not have to pay much.

808 Replace felt monthly. Could apply for any job you wanted, but people generally seemed happy with the jobs they had.

820 Happy mill, John Anderson the papermaker knew everything there was to know about the mill.

828 End.

 

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